Draaimolen van kunstenaar Matthijs Bosman voor project Superland
Draaimolen van kunstenaar Matthijs Bosman voor project Superland

Discussing democracy on a carousel: 'You’ll never catch each other up'

On Sunday 5 November political scientists and public administration specialists from Radboud University will be taking their place on a carousel in Deventer. There, the researchers will enter into discussion with the public on the subject of populism: is it something you should fight or exploit? Everyone is welcome at this unique off-site event, which forms part of the exhibition ‘Geloof het of niet... een draaimolen’ (‘Believe it or not... a carousel’) by artist Matthijs Bosman.

For his project Bosman is working together with the researchers from Sustainable Democracy, a multidisciplinary research network within Radboud University. ‘We take democracy for granted, but in recent years we have seen in various countries, including the Netherlands, just how vulnerable democracy actually is’, explains Marlies Honingh.

Honingh is an Associate Professor of Public Administration and one of the leaders of the research network, which she launched last year together with Wim van Meurs and Carolien van Ham. ‘With our Sustainable Democracy network we are keen to examine questions such as how cracks start to appear in a democracy, but also how you can repair them. How do we ensure that everyone is involved in a democracy and how do we give everyone space to contribute their ideas? Within society there is plenty of scope for discussions about healthcare, education and migration, but the reinforcement of democracy itself is something we must not overlook. Democracy is our shared project and one we need to keep working on.’

Heartfelt cries

As a first step, on 5 November Honingh and her colleagues will be stepping onto Bosman’s carousel and entering into discussion. The debate will be moderated by Daniëlle Arets, lecturer in Journalism and Innovation at Fontys. Anyone who wants to can issue their own heartfelt cry on the subject of democracy and, together with the researchers, develop it into a well-founded position. To round off the day, philosopher and journalist Karel Smouter will give a lecture on the state of our society.

According to Honingh and her colleagues, Bosman’s project presents an ideal opportunity to discuss the theme of democracy. ‘As researchers we are very good at explaining, but we also need to immerse ourselves in a topic. The event of 5 November is something I can’t prepare for. I may end up talking to a friendly grandmother, but it could just as easily be an angry man who wants to vent his frustrations. We have to relate to the people we encounter: that is also democracy.’


The carousel is an initiative forming part of Superland, a concept developed by artist Matthijs Bosman, and has been in place at the Kunstenlab in Deventer since 17 September. Bosman’s aim with Superland is to encourage debate on the rise of populism and the polarisation of society. ‘A carousel is the perfect place to talk about something accessible but heavy,’ says Bosman. ‘Accessible but heavy. Two sides of a split personality that have been alternating forever. Two halves that will never catch each other up, but keep trying to. What if we saw politics more like an attraction? If we embraced polarisation and were less fearful of entering into discussion?’

Contact information

For further information, please contact one of the researchers involved or team Science communication via +31 24 361 6000 or media [at] ru.nl (media[at]ru[dot]nl).   

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